Generation Zero

Two things I’ve read recently have really piqued my interest. First, an article by the NY times:

In sum (for those of you too lazy to read the article) the economic trends point towards the way of America’s economy being something of a lost cause. Entire industries are being outsourced, factory jobs are permanently disappearing from the mainland, and the American people are going to have to look long and hard at how we allocate resources and think about what we can really supply the world with. This is a trend we’ve seen before: it happens to countries who can no longer keep up with the global demand, they become consumer-based rather than supplier-based, money is flowing out rather than in, and essentially what it means is that they are no longer global economic powerhouses. [That last sentence was my own interpretation.]

“We have to seriously look at fundamentally rebuilding the economy,” Mr. Stettner said. “You’ve got to use this moment to retrain for jobs.” [from the nytimes article]

The second article that piqued my interest is this one about American youth culture:

Again, for those of you too lazy to read the article, this basically makes the argument that the “hipster” culture that pervades the American youth is essentially a cop-out, a cheap, cookie-cutter version of counterculture movements in the past. The author argues that the hipster movement has signified the end of revolutionary, creative American subculture. He claims that we’ve become too backwards-looking to create something different, and that in a sense, this is the death of American culture.

As someone who lives on a college campus where hipster culture reigns… this is SO TRUE. Why is America’s “counterculture” mainstream? Why is the one place where underbelly movements from the past were created – the college campus – now a center for American (does anyone else find the name ironic?) Apparel and Urban Outfitters faux-hippie creatures too dim to come up with their own counterculture? This, in combination with the article about the economy, leads me to wonder if perhaps America has lost her spark. I’m not as pessimistic as the author is, in the sense that I think we have something to work with, to make something out of, especially in the music field. But what about literature? I think the death of the book – violently murdered by the computer, the DVD, the video game, and the Internet – is the primary cause for this decline. Without books, words, writing, without someone to speak for our generation, we have nothing. I can name off the top of my head three American authors of the 20th century who spoke for a time and a generation: F. Scott Fitzgerald for the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression; Joseph Heller for World War II; Jack Kerouac for the Beatniks, dissatisfied with the suburban lifestyle of postwar America. Who will write our manifesto? What if there’s nothing to write about? What if Douglas Haddow is right, and this culture is useless, lost, meaningless, a desolate imitation of generations before?

These are my fears. We could be Generation Zero, and we could be the end.